Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe, Vancouver Island, BC
Horned Grebe, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo Copyright By Pauline Greenhalgh.

The Horned Grebe can be found all over North America and Eurasia, and it is considered to be widespread and abundant. The Pacific Northwest Coastal Region has a large population of them.

The horned grebe is up to 40 cm in length with up to a 65 cm wingspan. Both sexes are similar in shape, size, and color with a stocky body and a thin, short bill. The bill is black, the feet are set quite far back, and it has white secondary’s which are visible in flight.

The adult outside of breeding season has a black cap, hindneck, and back, while its flanks, belly, and fore neck are white.

During breeding season most birds come to have a golden stripe that extends from the eye to the back of the head. This is combined with a reddish neck and flanks and a dark back with a white belly. The bird’s horns are actually small little yellowish patches of feathers that can be found behind the bird’s eyes.

The horned grebe generally nests near-permanent but shallow ponds with good vegetation and open water. Both adults build the nest together, it is hidden in marsh vegetation. The nest is a floating pile of plant material, attached to vegetation like bull rushes. The female lays up to five eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs for up to 25 days. Once they have hatched, horned grebe chicks will ride on their parent’s back, even as they dive. Both parents will feed the young. The young can fly by the time they are 60 days old.

Horned grebe will eat some of its own feathers, they eat so many that they form a plug in the bird’s stomach. This plug helps to filter potentially harmful items, such as fish bones out of food and keep them in the stomach until they have been properly digested.

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